Since expanding our development team over the last couple of months, we’ve been working hard to build the new features you’ve all been asking for. We thought you might like a sneak preview of what’s coming soon.
Here’s what we’ve added to the site over the last couple of weeks…
You can now add our new ‘Inventions’ stream to your family timeline to see big inventions from history alongside your own family story. What was your family up to when the automobile was invented?
We’ll send you questions about your family each week to help you fill the gaps in your timeline.
You can now merge any number of GEDCOM files into your Twile family tree to keep it up-to-date and to combine research from multiple members of your family.
And here’s a couple of exciting features we’re working on right now…
If you’re a FamilySearch user, you’ll soon be able to import your tree into Twile, which will automatically generate a timeline of your family history for you to share privately. More details later this month!
Following the launch of our inventions stream, we’ve had so much feedback and many requests for different history topics. We are currently working on streams for the American Civil War and War of Independence. If you have a specific request for a new history stream, please add a comment below or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
We are really excited to announce a significant new feature. It has been requested again and again by our customers, so we’re really pleased to finally have it finished!
Since early 2015, users have been able to import GEDCOM files into Twile, but have never been able to bring in multiple versions. With many of our customers wanting to keep their timeline up-to-date for their wider families to explore, we’ve added a new feature that allows you to merge multiple GEDCOM files into one family tree and keep it updated with future changes.
This means that family members storing their research independently in different family history sites such as Ancestry or Findmypast, can now bring all of their findings together in one private family tree on Twile and import newer versions as they further their research.
As well as generating their tree, Twile will use the data in the GEDCOM files to automatically add events to the family timeline, such as births, marriages and deaths.
The merge tool will intelligently match people from a GEDCOM file by comparing their names, genders, dates of birth and relationships, requesting the user’s help with any matches that aren’t obvious.
It’s now possible to for the whole family to explore their complete family tree, with all of the family’s historians combining their research together.
You asked, we delivered: How your feedback improves Twile
In April 2016 we made some big changes to the invisible parts of Twile, which means that the whole website now runs faster and can handle any size of family tree. You will hopefully notice that everything loads more quickly, especially if you have a large family on the site.
Now that this work is complete, we thought you might be interested to have an insight into the challenges of building a website like Twile and keeping it running smoothly.
We build Twile in a ‘lean’ way, which basically means that we build new features as quickly as we can to get your feedback on them sooner. We don’t try to make everything perfect straight away – we could spend a very long time getting a feature just right, only to find that nobody wants it! Instead, we will build a simpler version of a feature and then make some changes and improvements to it over time, based on the conversations we have with customers like you.
The family tree is a good example of this. When we first built the tree in 2014, it was only designed to display 10-20 people (and GEDCOM was but a twinkle in our eyes). It couldn’t show multiple marriages, often displayed siblings in the wrong order and it didn’t look anywhere near as pretty.
But, it allowed us to collect feedback and prove that we were heading in the right direction. We’ve since improved the family tree gradually, adding new features. tweaking the design and allowing it to handle much larger and more complicated families.
The performance work we’ve done in April is the latest in a long and continued line of work on the family tree. The site can now comfortably handle any size of tree (we’ve tested it with 100,000 people so far).
All of this comes from the conversations we have with our customers. Some of the changes we’ve been asked for – and are still planning to build in – are support for adopted families, multiple trees and admin controls for the tree owner. These are all on their way.
The challenge of building a product like Twile is deciding what to work on first. We have a lot of customers asking for lots of different things, so we have to prioritise the ones that will improve Twile the most for the largest number of people. It is for this reason that we encourage you to give us your feedback – the more people that ask for a particular feature, the more likely we are to build it soon.
And in between the launch of new features, we’re always working on the hidden aspects of Twile – making it faster and more reliable. This is a never-ending task, as we have more users and more complex features every single day.
So we hope that you will be patient with us while we make Twile as amazing as we can. Our team is expanding, with two new developers joining the Twile team in May, which will mean that progress on some features will be accelerated. We ask that you keep telling us what you like, dislike and would like to see – in that way you’re helping us build the perfect tool for you.
If you were lucky enough to catch some of the workshops at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last week, Ron Arons spoke about ‘Technologies for Timelines’. It was a great presentation and we’re delighted that Ron agreed to do a guest blog post for us!
Twile and Mind Maps: Two excellent choices for building genealogical timelines, Ron Arons.
When it comes to Timelines, there are many technologies that fit the bill; I can tell you about two dozen different products and services which come in all shapes, sizes and prices. The good/bad news is that there are so many options. It can be confusing to decide which one(s) to use.
The really good news is that you don’t have to select just one approach, even if you are under a limited budget.
One way of deciding among the many choices is to consider how you want to use a timeline.
Do you want to create a beautiful report for yourself and others to show off what you have discovered as a result of all of your research efforts?
Do you want to use a timeline for analysis purposes?
The really good news is that there are products and services which fall into each category.
Twile’s product/service falls into the first category. It is a unique product in that it allows you to build visually stunning timelines with superior graphics, including images (think family photographs, etc.) The Twile folks make it easy to add family members to the timeline, whether you type information in directly or, better yet, import a GEDCOM (industry standard genealogy database) file. While relatively new to the market, Twile’s product is very capable and I know that they have great plans for the future with feature enhancements, e.g. video, on the drawing boards.
By contrast, a mind map is a different animal altogether. The notion of mind maps has been around for centuries and software programs to create them have been around for nearly twenty years. Mind maps are used in companies of all sizes for brainstorming and creative thinking. In the education field, teachers use them with their students. Attorneys use them to layout their cases both for their clients as well as for juries. Writers use mind maps to plan their stories.
If you are a visual (or non-linear thinking person and have never tried them, you should really give them a shot.
Mind maps are radial outlines that start with a central theme or concept, e.g. a person or a question. From the centre, you expand the mind map with several branches. Each branch can be expanded with more specific details in sub-branches, sub-sub branches, etc. For example, the following mind map provides information about my great-grandfather, a criminal and consummate liar.
Better yet, you can make connections across the map using connector arrows/lines. It is this latter capability that I found so useful in my own personal research to help analyze two very difficult problems that haunted me for more than fifteen years.
The themes for my various mind maps were individuals. I created a first level of branches which represented the many different genealogical documents that I found for that individual (or other related individuals). I then organized the documents in clockwise, chronological order, effectively creating a timeline. Next, I populated sub-branches with details of each document. Finally, I used connector arrows of different colors to connect specific “facts” I saw in common across the various documents. I found that this approach “lit up” my brain, allowing me to “see” things that would have been much more difficult to notice and comprehend if I just looked at the original documents, comparing two at a time. You can see an example of a timeline mind map (without connector arrows) about my great-grandfather on my website here: http://www.ronarons.com/isaac-spier-mindmap/
So, you CAN have your cake and eat it, too!
You can use mind maps to help with the analysis portion of your research and a great product like Twile’s to spruce it up and make it look pretty to share with your relatives.
Regardless of which direction you take, I wish you the very best of success with your family history research. Happy hunting!
We’d like to thank Ron for this insightful blog post. If you like this mind map approach to timelines, consider Ron’s book, Mind Maps for Genealogy, which discusses using mind maps for timelines, using the Genealogical Proof Standard, and implementing the FAN (friends, associates and neighbours) technique (also known as “cluster” research).
If you have your family tree in an online service (such as Ancestry) or a software package on your computer, you can now import your tree into Twile to automatically create an amazing timeline of your family history.
All of the people and events that are hidden away in your family tree will be brought to life on a timeline that you can share with your whole family.
We thought it would be helpful to add links to the step-by-step guides for exporting a GEDCOM file for some of the more popular genealogy tools…
You can’t currently export a GEDCOM file from FamilySearch, but you don’t need to – you can import it directly into Twile. Simply click the ‘Import Family Tree’ button at the top of your family tree and choose the FamilySearch option there.
Ready to import your GEDCOM file? If you’re new to Twile, you can register for free here: https://twile.com Otherwise, visit your family tree on Twile and click ‘Import Family Tree’ at the top of the screen.
If you need any help creating your GEDCOM file or importing it into Twile, please get in touch and we’ll do all we can to help.